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June 14, 2001


Starlink, Erosion, Catholic Church, Bt Corn, TRIPS, Organics


AgBioView - http://www.agbioworld.org

Today's Topics:

* Starlink did not cause allergic reactions
* GM trials must continue
* Soil Erosion
* Catholic Church and AgBiotech
* NGIN and industry
* Organic movement owes a huge debt to soil scientists
* What are the arguments for keeping the Bt and required non-Bt corn plots
* Maximum level for the biotech grain
* Enough food?
* TRIPS agreement
* UNC, Penn State scientists find gene that controls water retention in
* MPs split on GM food labels


At Least the Biotech Terrorists Are Consistent ... They're Always Wrong

Fox News
June 15, 2001
By Steven Milloy

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that no
evidence could be found that Starlink corn is causing allergic reactions
in people. Starlink is a type of biotech corn not approved for human
consumption that was found in Taco Bell taco shells last September.

A coalition of anti-biotech groups demanded the taco shells "be
immediately removed from grocery shelves across the country." Their
mouthpiece, the Genetically Engineered Food Alert, claimed the corn
contained a potential allergen that could cause nausea and anaphylactic
shock in some people.

GEFA's alarmism, spread by a media apparently eager to believe the worst
about biotech food, resulted in 28 individuals reporting allergic effects
after consuming food products containing traces of Starlink.

Seventeen of the 28 individuals submitted blood samples to the CDC.
Scientists from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration developed a test
method for detecting antibodies to the Starlink corn protein, known as
Cry9C. The blood tests failed to find signs of antibodies to Cry9C,
indicating that none of those tested experienced allergic reactions to

The results were not unexpected.

Concern about Cry9C stemmed from laboratory experiments reporting that the
protein digests more slowly in a "simulated gastric environment" ? minutes
rather than seconds. Such resistance to digestion is sometimes, but not
always, correlated with allergenic activity, according to food allergen
experts. Cry9C is not otherwise known to be an allergen.

Experts doubted that Cry9C would be an allergen because it's not derived
from a source containing any known allergens, its protein sequence does
not resemble other known allergens and none of the other biotech corn
proteins are allergens.

Regardless of Cry9C's allergenic potential, the protein is not likely to
become an actual human allergen because humans have not been significantly
exposed to Starlink corn ? even allowing for the possibility of a small
amount inadvertently appearing in human food.

Before an allergic reaction can occur, a person who is genetically
predisposed to food allergies must consume a sufficient ? not just any ?
amount of an allergen. During digestion, the susceptible person's body
produces antibodies to the food allergen ? but there is no allergic
reaction upon initial exposure. It would take another subsequent exposure
? at least weeks, if not months later ? before enough antibodies exist to
trigger an actual allergic reaction.

Sadly, none of this seems to matter to the anti-technology activists and
their dupes.

The anti-biotechnology Environmental Defense Fund said the CDC sample was
too small to be meaningful and that more people need to be tested.

But the CDC considered all the people that claimed to have had allergic
responses. Should the CDC now engage in a wild goose chase scrutinizing
millions of blood samples in search for a condition that does not exist in
the most likely candidates?

One of the individuals tested, 35-year-old Grace Booth, claimed she
experienced anaphylactic shock after eating an enchilada. "Frankly, I
don't trust the tests ... I still feel like I haven't gotten to the bottom
of this, and very much want to do that," she said.

Certainly the CDC acknowledged that it could not completely rule out the
possibility that Starlink corn was associated with an allergenic response
because food allergies may occur without detectable antibodies. But on the
other hand, there was no evidence that the allergenic response claimed by
Booth was even food-related, let alone associated with Starlink.

This is the second major biotech corn scare to wind up in the scrap heap.

In March 1999 and in August 2000, the media trumpeted alarmist results
from two laboratory studies reporting "Bt" biotech corn pollen might harm
Monarch butterfly larvae. Headlines such as "High-tech Corn Killing
Butterflies" and "New Study Confirms Genetic Corn Kills Butterflies"
appeared in newspapers around the world.

In response to the study and headlines, teams from universities and the
U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted field research on Bt corn and
Monarch butterflies. They reported last November that pollen levels in Bt
cornfields weren't high enough to harm the Monarch caterpillars that might
be feeding on milkweeds there.

The researchers found Monarch larvae actually fared better inside Bt
cornfields than in natural areas, apparently because there is less
pressure from predators in the cornfield. Monarchs also did much better in
Bt cornfields than other cornfields because insecticides are not used in
Bt cornfields.

Another important finding was that most Monarch larva development occurs
before or after corn plants shed their pollen. So most Monarch
caterpillars have limited exposure to pollen. Those present during
pollination almost always encounter harmless doses. Purdue University's
Dr. Eldon Ortman concluded that the Bt corn-Monarch butterfly scare "is
not a very big issue."

The regulatory and agricultural industry gaps that inadvertently allowed a
small amount of Starlink to enter the human food chain have been plugged.
Biotech products will not be approved for any use unless government
regulators for human consumption certify them.

Still, it would be naïve to think this is the last time anti-biotech
activists start a food scare.

On the bright side, though, we should take comfort in the activists'
consistency. That is, they've been consistently wrong.

Steven Milloy is the publisher of JunkScience.com, an adjunct scholar at
the Cato Institute and the author of the upcoming book Junk Science Judo:
Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

Corn Scare Gets Popped
The StarLink biotech bugaboo has been slain.

Wall Street Journal
June 15, 2001

A government report released this week further confirms what bioengineers
and agricultural scientists already know to be true, and what political
opponents of biotechnology refuse to admit: The frenzy last fall over
human consumption of genetically modified corn products was unwarranted.
The products are safe. On Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention released a study undertaken in the wake of the big StarLink
allergy scare, and
it concluded that biotech corn did not cause the allergic reaction that
some 58 people reported after finding out about the grain.

"Although the study participants may have experienced allergic reactions,"
said the CDC, "we cannot conclude that a reported illness was a
[biotech-corn-related] allergic reaction." The CDC researchers added that
an independent study of the same data had confirmed these results.

Last October, a consumer group opposed to biotechnology discovered that
StarLink, a variety of genetically modified corn approved only for animal
feed, was present in hundreds of food products consumed by humans. The
result was massive widely publicized product recalls of brand-name foods
and production disruptions both in the U.S. and abroad, at a cost of tens
of millions of dollars. Iowa, the biggest corn-producing state, along with
the rest of the Farm Belt, was thrown into a panic, worried that
StarLink-tainted harvests would be rejected by millers who want only
food-grade quality corn.

The public fear, fed by antibiotechnology outfits and pseudoscience, was
that the biotech products would cause allergic reactions. But Henry Miller
of the Hoover Institution says that anyone familiar with the scientific
and medical issues surrounding StarLink knows that there was never any
cause for worry.

"Testing the blood of persons who complained of allergic reactions to
StarLink was a fool's errand from the beginning," says Dr. Miller. "We
need to remember that these people were eating foods comprised of
literally millions of proteins, many of which are known to be allergenic."
Which is to say that a person eating a taco is far more likely to
experience allergy to peanut oil or sour cream than to miniscule amounts
of a single protein from the genetically improved corn shell.

None of this mattered last fall, however, as the media screamed front-page
headlines about biotech-related health risks. Yesterday's news refuting
those claims received substantially less prominence. The StarLink episode
is hardly promising as a case study in whether we, as a serious people,
are capable of dealing with complex issues like biotechnology.
Supermarket-tabloid treatment, ironically, appears to be the norm.

The alarmists responsible for the original scare are of course undeterred
by the CDC report. The opposition to biotechnology isn't about to let
science get in the way of an agenda that is not so much about food safety
as it is about anticorporatism. (And in the case of foreign governments
that refuse biotech imports, old-fashioned protectionism).

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to consider whether StarLink is
suitable for human consumption, and environmentalists are worried that the
CDC report will affect the decision. They should be worried.


Study Finds No Allergic Reactions to StarLink Corn

By Cat Lazaroff

WASHINGTON, DC, June 14, 2001 (ENS) - A new report from the Centers for
Disease Control has found no evidence that eating corn products
contaminated with an unapproved genetically engineered variety can make
people sick. The report on the health effects of StarLink corn, which was
licensed only for animal feed, met heavy criticism from environmental and
public interest groups who say the engineered corn has been linked to
severe allergic reactions.



GM trials must continue

The Scotsman
Fordyce Maxwell Farming Editor (fmaxwell@scotsman.com)
June 15, 2001

THE director general of the European Union?s environmental department
believes that trials of genetically modified crops must continue.

Jim Currie, in Scotland to talk to parliament?s transport and environment
committee about the European Commission?s document Environment 2010 - our
future, our choice, told The Scotsman: "We take the view that we need to
get a GM balance based on the precautionary principle - legislation in
place to look at the science, continue to monitor, while recognising that
there is no demonstrable proof that they are harmful."

Opposition to GM crops has been widespread in Britain, including the most
recent attack on trials on the Black Isle. Earlier this week protesters
who had been charged with crop damage in England were acquitted.

But both the former UK ministry of agriculture and Scotland?s rural
affairs department have insisted that it is only logical to allow trials
to take place, a view shared by Currie.

He said: "We cannot afford, in my view, to ban trials or to go down the
road which says that GM is, by definition, bad and should never be

To do that, he said, would be to lose many opportunities. The
bio-technology industry is a big employer with a large part to play in the
future of the EU economy. New legislation should be in place next year to
re-test GM products every few years. Work is also being done on "upstream
traceability" from the crops so that "we know what is coming through in
bulk products and the food chain".

Labelling is also vital to give consumers the choice and later this year
there will be proposals for civil liability if anything goes wrong which,
he suggested, might be a "more controversial issue".

"What we want is a policy approach which takes account of people?s fears,
but there is no point in running away from the issue. We have to face up
to it and give consumers the choice against the background that, at this
time, there is no clear proof that GM crops are actually harmful," he

The present EU moratorium on new GM products must be broken, he said, "we
cannot afford not to" - otherwise bio-tech companies will leave.

He believes that the front-runners in GM crop production, such as the St
Louis-based Monsanto, have learned a lot since they brought crops and the
technique to Europe and thought that they could browbeat the public into
accepting them.

Currie said: "They have learned lessons, they are a lot less aggressive...
We have to respond to genuine concerns of people about what might happen,
what might prove to be harmful, but to have measures in place which can
respond to any new knowledge."

Date: Jun 15 2001 10:25:01 EDT
From: Alex Avery
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Starlink, Erosion, Dev countries,
ConservationTillage, Khush awarded, Green Revolutio

Chuck Benbrook wrote:
>The Sams-Avery exchange on soil erosion indeed covers important
>ground. Sams should not take Alex too seriously, many of his claims
>regarding soil movement are largely divorced from reality.

Chuck, what exactly did I say that was "largely divorced from reality"?
Seriously, point-by-point, what did I say that was inaccurate or wrong?
Was it my statement that the USDA's soil loss estimates are really soil
movement estimates? It's a simple matter of indisputable fact. But then
again, you didn't specifically refute that statement, so perhaps that
wasn't one of the "many claims" to which you were refering.

It's obvious that you and Mr. Sams haven't read Trimble's research paper
in Science or Trimble's and Crosson's editorial in Science challenging the
USDA's computer model estimates, OR the letter exchange in Science between
Trimble/Crosson and a group of USDA soil scientists. (I urge all who are
interested in agricultural sustainability to read all three of these
pieces for themselves) Trimble and Crosson challenge USDA estimates of
soil loss with comprehensive data and point out the serious flaws in the
USDA approach to measuring and estimating soil loss. It's just good
science. Dr. Benbrooke and Mr. Sams, until you address Trimble and
Crosson's pathbreaking research, I'll assume you aren't honestly
interested in a serious discussion of soil erosion. Then again, with
comments like the following, you don't sound very serious, only biased.

>. . . farms with rich soils can manage erosion with some tillage and
>mechanical weed control as effectively as no-till systems on the
>adjoining farm with low-organic matter, trashed, high bulk density >soils.

What about no-till farms with high organic matter, non-trashed soils?
What about the 100-fold increase in earthworm populations on Canadian
prairie no-till fields? What about the vastly increased soil porosity and
water holding capacity on no-till soils?

>A couple of other comments on Avery's notions of soil movement. >Soil
never washes uphill.

This is a hilarious strawman, as is much of the rest of Dr. Benbrooke's
post. I said actual soil losses were a fraction of the USDA numbers,
meaning some soil IS lost, as it is in all agricultural systems and even
without farming. Soil erosion is inevitable. The question, as you well
know is whether the losses are greater than the gains over time.

>Well-managed notill systems can definitely build soils

Thanks Chuck, I'm assuming now that you agree with the main point of my
original post correcting Mr. Sams: No-till builds soils.

Alex Avery
Hudson Institute

Date: Jun 15 2001 03:08:55 EDT
From: "Gordon Couger"
Subject: Organic agriculture an erosion

Organic agriculture is a severe disadvantage to modern agriculture in
terms of soil erosion and soil humus loss for two simple reason. First
organic agriculture has to cultivate more acres for the same yields and
second in using tillage as the mainstay weed control they leave the soil
a very great deal more vulnerable to erosion and burns up most of the
organic matter that is built up in the soil from applications of manure,
soiling crops and legume rotations. Every trip though the field with a
tillage tool burns fuel, puts out CO2 from the exhaust, oxidizes carbon in
the soil into CO2, incorporates surface organic material for subsurface
decomposition and wastes time that could be spent fishing.

High yield modern farming can set aside 1/3 to 1/2 the ground need to
raise the same amount of crops organically and return those to grass or
forest which in time will total rebuild the soils to what they were before
man disturbed them and provide habitat for wild life. Using low till or no
till methods the organic matter that is lost from cultivation is greatly
reduced and these same practices can bring both wind and water erosion to
a near stand still while the organic agriculture using the same old way of
tillage still leaves the ground bare to the ravages of wind and rain.

The claim that somehow organic farmers are the only ones that use
rotations that leave part of the crop land in long term perennial crops
and modern farmers practice intensive monoculture of a single crop year
after year on the same ground are at least in the area that I am from
ridiculous. I talked to my dad last week and his tenant is putting half
his place in Alfalfa. Over the last 20 years his tenant has tried to keep
1/3 to 1/2 the place in alfalfa. Not only because it is good for the soil
but because his tenant has management
abilities to take a crop that is difficult to manage and turn it into a
very profitable crop.

We need to stop letting organic agriculture get away with making any kind
of claims that they want. Just because those of us that have spent our
lives in agriculture know they are talking out their hat the rest of the
world doesn't know that they are blowing smoke. Even the organic ag folks
don't the truth from the fiction. Most of of them really believe in what
they say. With what is happening in Europe think what could happen in the
world if a substantial percentage of the people did take them seriously.


Gordon Couger
Retired Farmer
Stillwater, OK

Date: Jun 15 2001 11:40:19 EDT
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Sams v. Avery


Sams and Avery are good at moving data and arguments around regarding
conventional vs. organic farming, but actual experience may prove the most

In Iowa, "organic" agriculture prevailed for decades, simply because there
was no alternative. Crops were rotated not only to provide fodder for
animals, but also to reduce weed populations, capture nitrogen, and reduce
erosion. However, mechanical tillage necessitated by high-value row crops
always entailed soil

Since Iowa was farmed "organically" for most of its history, most soil
erosion in Iowa is due to organic farming. This legacy of organic erosion
left farmers with a greater variation between rocky, sandy knolls which
are unproductive and low-lying areas where the rich topsoil has collected
(most eroded topsoil doesn't go into streams and rivers, it collects in
low-lying areas).

During the first wave of agricultural modernization, farmers sought to
combat the low productivity of organic farming with "artificial"
fertilizers and spray pesticides. This allowed them to break the cycle of
dependence on crop rotation with forages and instead alternate between
corn and soybeans, which are more valuable and productive crops.

However, they remained aghast at soil erosion--bear in mind, farmers know
their land is a productive asset and they have strong economic incentives
to prevent erosion.

Farmers are adopting herbicide-tolerant crops because it gives them the
weed control they need, without the intensive tillage that leads to soil
erosion. They can increase productivity and reduce soil erosion at the
same time.

Farmers don't need to ask agronomists or economists to tell them the
benefits of biotechnology--they see it in their fields, just as I do.

Date: Jun 15 2001 09:21:52 EDT
From: "Kershen, Drew L"
Subject: Catholic Church and AgBiotech

I thank Prakash for posting the information he posted about Cardinal
Sin of Manila and the other statements. I agree with Prakash's analysis
of these statements. I want to add several points.

First, a resource point. I have all the Vatican statements
on Agbiotech including several press conferences that I have had
professionally translated from Italian to English. I also have the two
books on Biotechnology that the Vatican Pontifical Academy on Life
published in late 1999. Prakash is correct that these statements and the
other books adopt a prudent affirmation of biotechnology including
agricultural biotechnology. If anyone wants a copy of any of these
documents, I will be glad to send you a copy. I have nine documents --
press conferences, speeches, formal statements, news releases. In prior
communications to AgBioView, I have already posted many of these to this

Second, in Kenya where the Kenyan Agricultural Research Service is using
agricultural biotechnology to enhance banana, sweet potato
and other important crops of Kenyan agriculture, the KARS had to figure
out how to get these improvements into the hands of farmers. To develop
the needed extension service, KARS turned to churches and mosques to serve
as the extension agents. I do not know the full details of this
collaboration but I do know that one Catholic diocese is part of this
collaboration and has successfully provided crop improvements and
education about agricultural biotechnology to Kenyan farmers within the

Third, during the New Zealand Royal Commission on Biotechnology, the
Catholic Bishops Conference of New Zealand (CBC-NZ) testified and
presented a report which was straightforwardly in favor of agricultural
biotechnolgy. The CBC-NZ report was prepared by the CBC
completely independently of any other entity. But after its presentation
to the Royal Commission, Francis Wevers, Ex. Dir. NZ Life Sciences Network
stated that the CBC-NZ had reached the same conclusions that the NZ Life
Sciences Network had reached. I paste into this message an excerpt from
the CBC-NZ statement:

Our ( the Catholic Bishops Conference-- New Zealand) Response to the
Ethical Questions

5. In the use of GM technology, what are the responsibilities arising from
the relational nature of the human person?

The human person is essentially relational by nature, with our most
fundamental relationships being with God, self, others, the earth and all
its life forms.

6. Our relationship with God concerns the gift of life from God, from
which flows the innate dignity of the person. Human activity, including
GM, must therefore always be ordered to the ""the integral good of the
human person. Our relationship with self requires an acceptance of
ourselves as persons with the freedom and responsibility to make moral
decisions. In our relationships with others we have a particular
responsibility to those who are vulnerable in some way, particularly those
who are poor, and those who
have no voice. Because the resources of the earth are not owned by any one
generation, we have serious responsibilities to future generations in our
stewardship of the earth.

7. Is it ethical to take a copy of a gene from one species and insert it
into the genome of another species?

We do not see the technology of genetic modification in itself to be in
conflict with ethical values. However most human inventions can be used to
benefit or to harm, and there may be uses of GM which are unethical or

8. Genetic modification represents an advance of a new and different
nature, but such an advance is not a new phenomenon in the history of
scientific investigation. Such paradigm shifts in science challenge other
disciplines to deepen understanding of our human nature and the
responsibilities that flow from it.

9. Are there ethical limits in the use of genetic modification in human

Assuming that safety issues are resolved within acceptable limits of risk,
the use of GM in somatic cell therapy is ethical and in accord with the
healing tradition of both medicine and the Church.

10. There are many potentially serious consequences which could result
from the unwise or unethical use of germ-line therapy, and its use should
be prohibited for a defined period of time. We oppose the use of genetic
modification for purposes of ""enhancement"", a form of germ-line therapy
with consequences reaching far beyond the individual.

11. Is it ethical to direct or control human evolution or that of other

Human beings are co-creators with God, and participants in the
evolutionary process. GM has the potential to diversify and accelerate
evolutionary change, with potential for both benefit and harm. The use of
GM for both our benefit and that of other species is a challenge for us as
stewards of the gift of creation. The term ""playing God"" reflects deep
concerns some people have about GM, which may be justified if science and
economic interests are left to make the major decisions about its use.

12. In the use of GM what responsibilities do we have in terms of social

When applied to GM the principles of Catholic social teaching require a
fair and equitable sharing of benefits, and the means of ensuring that
vulnerable groups or their resources are not subject to exploitation. We
should not participate in uses of GM or trade practices which infringe
upon the rights of other peoples, reduce biodiversity, or threaten
sustainable agriculture. Economic power or vested economic interests
should not be allowed to become the prime driving-forces in decisions
regarding the use of, and access to,
genetic modification.

13. In the use of GM how do we address human rights that appear to be in

Allowing or avoiding some uses of GM may give liberty to one group, but
deprive another group of liberty, or threaten the economic viability of a
group or individuals. The extent of individual rights in relation to the
common good cannot be determined without sound and neutral research to
resolve competing claims about the effects on the New Zealand economy of
allowing or not allowing the use of GM. Decisions concerning GM should not
remove the rights of individuals to distance themselves from GM if
conscience precludes use of the technology or its products.

14. For Maori, the relationship between people and the natural world is
fundamentally different to the understanding found in many Western
cultures. While there is an obligation on Maori to understand the science
of GM, there is an obligation on proponents of GM to respect the
spirituality and traditions of Maori. The principles of the Treaty of
Waitangi must be fully integrated into any ethical framework to be used
for decision-making on issues associated with genetic modification. The
Way Forward - an Ethical Framework for Decision-Making

15. In order to prevent unethical or unwise use of GM, oversight of its
use by appropriate bodies, established by regulation, is a moral
imperative. We strongly believe that a framework of ethical principles
should be developed in relation to the use of genetic modification, and
that regulation should be based on these principles. Cultural concerns may
be best dealt with at this principled level rather than being handled on a
case by case basis
within the regulatory process.

16. If a framework of ethical principles is developed then the regulatory
structure should be reviewed to ensure that it conforms with this
framework. As well as being ethically sound, regulation should act to
facilitate and not to inhibit appropriate ethically acceptable research,
technological advancement, and industry.

17. Sufficient resources need to be provided for research and teaching in
bioethics and similar disciplines, to allow them to contribute more fully
to the debate about new biotechnology. Public education and consultation
processes are needed, so that an informed community can also participate
fully in the discussion.


18. In itself, the technology of genetic modification is not in conflict
with ethical values. It has great potential for good, but also the
potential for harm. Ethical and moral principles need to be at the heart
of our decision-making about uses of genetic modification. How we use
genetic modification will be a statement of what we value as a society,
and who we are as a people.""

Best regards,


Drew L. Kershen
Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law
University of Oklahoma College of Law
Norman, Oklahoma 73019-5081 U.S.A.
Ph.: 1-405-325-4784
FAX: 1-405-325-0389

From: Malcolm Livingstone
Posted to To: GMF-News@scope.educ.washington.ed;
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001
Subject: [SCOPE:GMF-news] NGIN and industry

Below is my response to NGIN's attack on myself. I hope SCOPE can post this
response in whole as plenty of space was given to NGIN's hysterical

First of all I do not speak for CSIRO. All my views are personal and in no
way represent those of CSIRO. When I talk about the biotech industry I mean
companies like Monsanto and Aventis not Universities. I don't consider
universities to be industries (not yet anyway). I don't favour the recent
trend to garner increased levels of funding for universities from private
industry but this is a world-wide trend. If you don't like it I suggest you
vote against it at the next election. I do. I don't know anybody in
Monsanto, Aventis etc. If that makes me myopic then so be it.

In order to set the record straight I will disclose the source of my
funding over the last 14 years. For the past 3 years I have been 100%
funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). My
laboratory and office are provided by CSIRO. The GRDC is an organisation
funded by levies on farmers to develop their industry. Most of the money
goes on conventional breeding programs and to study ways to make farming
more attractive economically and environmentally. Some goes to
biotechnology projects like my own. Between 1992 and 1998 I was funded by
the Australian Council for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and
by an Australian Postgraduate Award. Both of these are entirely government
funded. Between 1987 and 1990 I was funded by the Queensland Cancer Fund
(private charity) and the Australian Equine Bloodtyping Laboratory (funded
by the horse racing industry) to study cancer and DNA fingerprinting

So my original claim stands. I am not paid by the industry and do not
represent them in any way. I am soon to leave research for a position as a
high school teacher. My views on the safety of GM crops will be ths same as
they are now. Will I still be regarded by yourselves as an industry stooge?

You state also that I am an angry person. Quite so. I am angry at having to
respond to people who don't seem to have any regard for scientific evidence
in the same way I am angry at creation scientists. I am angry that I have
to share the globe with people who don't understand the value of reason and

I have sent letters to you previously but only selected quotes are ever
published. Can you please do me the courtesy of posting my letter in its
entirety? Additonally can I please have the name of the person who is
responding to my comments as well as their research experience and
qualifications? Also is it possible for the NGIN to respond to my letters
and enquiries personally before selectively misquoting me in public?

Malcolm Livingstone

Malcolm Livingstone

CSIRO Plant Industry Ph: (07) 3214 2902 Fax: (07) 3214 2288
120 Meiers Rd.
Qld 4068

Date: 15 Jun 2001 08:23:49 -0000
From: Craig Sams
To: AgBioView-owner@listbot.com
Subject: [Fwd: Question to Sams]

Dear Rick

The organic movement owes a huge debt to soil scientists and other
agriculturists who have established the principles for which there is
general scientific support. It is also indebted to nutrition researchers
such as Prof. Walter Willet of the Harvard School of Public Health
(hydrogenated fats) and Dr. Grace Wyshak (phosphoric acid) for research
into the safety of food ingredients which are not permitted in organic
food processing. Most of these researchers do not espouse an organic
agenda. Many did their research before the word 'organic' meant anything
other than a branch of chemistry.
The organic rules and regulations have evolved outside of government
until very recently. As a result they reflect consumer concerns that have
emergedin reaction to research about soil erosion, pesticide use and
residues, infectious diseases via animal vectors, food additives,
biodiversity, newly discovered mutagens and carcinogens, and other food
quality issues. The science may have been disputed (it took twenty years
until 1993 before it was generally accepted that hydrogenated fat was not
substantially equivalent to unsaturated oils) but it always reflects the
consumer's concern to minimise
risk. There has been a lot on AgBioView about overreaction and
excessive precaution and, when you consider what people (even organic
folks) do to themselves with cigarettes, alcohol, traffic fumes and stress
it may seem a bit precious to be concerned about traces of a yellow food
colouring or Thiabendazole (banned in the U.S., permitted in the EU, not
allowed in organics anywhere). But there is only one system that takes
all the research, even the contentious stuff, and says "Let's see whether
we can get by without it, give farmers a realistic time frame to adapt,
give processors deadlines to conform and guarantee through a system of
inspection and certification that all these issues have been addressed and
that a proposition can be offered to the consumer that satisfied their

This process has been going on for 50 years and the inspection and
certification systems were initiated in the mid 1970s. Most of this
time organic was a distant blip on the horizon and it is still fair to say
that little original research has been generated by the organic sector.
Apart from anything else, we ain't got no money, so the global organic
consensus is based on reviews of research and, sometimes, gut reactions
that have little scientific foundation (such as the Soil Association's
decision in 1983 to ban the feeding of meat and bone meal to ruminants).

Fungicides tend to kill fungal microorganisms in soil. insecticides
kill many life forms other than insects and nitrate fertilisers also
reduce the measurable populations of microorganisms dramatically. As
these populations decline, soil structure goes with it. I suppose the
organic consensus is that plowing is not a good idea and should be done
with as minimal an impactas possible. Advances in agricultural technology
in recent years (again, nothing to do with organics as such) means that
flame weeding, reduced compaction due to new tractor tyre designs, etc,
etc all help to achieve the underlying goal of sustainability.

I realise Elaine Ingham of Oregon State is not the most popular person in
the AgBioView world but her website soilfoodweb.com describes the action
of nitrates on soil biota pretty convincingly.


Craig Sams

From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Cereal variety blends

Is the variety mixing work relevant to the Bt corn resistance
management issue? I have often wondered why a corn seed blend of 20%
non-Bt and 80% Bt corn (of similar performance characteristics) couldn't
be planted in a single field. As far as I know, the target insects only
feed on a single plant, so accidentally culling all the susceptibles
wouldn't be a big issue. Also, the proximity of susceptibles would be a
lot better -- any resistant individuals would be a bit more likely to mate
with a susceptible. This exactly parallels the suggested mode of action in
the cereal seed blend example for fungus resistance.

What are the arguments for keeping the Bt and required non-Bt corn plots


Date: 15 Jun 2001 12:19:08 -0000
From: "Bob MacGregor"
Subject: Re: AGBIOVIEW: Starlink

Could someone on the list explain for me the math in the following
(from the AP starlink article):

"Aventis wants the EPA to set a maximum level for the biotech grain of 20
parts per billion - the equivalent of one StarLink kernel in every 800
kernels of corn. The EPA is expected to consider the CDC report in making
its decision."

Are they talking Cry9 protein as a proportion of the total weight of
the corn?



Date: 15 Jun 2001 10:03:46 -0000
From: Craig Sams
To: AgBioView-owner@listbot.com
Subject: E coli in Organic vegetables

The AgBioView website has contained many exchanges, including those
between myself and Alex Avery of the Hudson Institute, regarding the
microbiological safety of organic food. This arose from the mistaken
contention that the use of composted animal manures would lead to
contamination of food grown with manure as a fertilizer. The Public Health
Laboratory Service (Britain's CDC equivalent) got caught up in this and
decided to find out for themselves. Their results are attached and make
reassuring reading for anyone who was concerned or
alarmed by the Hudson Institute allegations.


Craig Sams
President, Whole Earth Foods Ltd.

13th June 2001

Embargoed until 00.01 hrs Thursday 14th June 2001

New study of ready-to-eat organic vegetables finds sound microbiological

A study of uncooked ready-to-eat organic vegetables found that in over
3000 samples tested, 99.5% were of sound quality with respect to the
presence of micro-organisms. The results suggest that the
agricultural, hygiene, harvesting and production practices under which
these products were produced were overall very good. The study was
carried out last year by the PHLS and LACOTS (Local Authorities
Co-ordinated Body on Food and Trading Standards) food surveillance
programme and is published this week.

Dr Robert Mitchell, of the PHLS, one of the authors on the study, said,
"Over the last few years the size of the market for organic food has grown
dramatically, and so has interest in how "safe" organic foods are. This
study, the first of its kind in this country, looked for evidence of four
key organisms which can cause disease in humans: Listeria monocytogenes,
Salmonella, Campylobacter and Escherichia coli O157. We did not find
these potentially dangerous organisms in any of the 3200 samples we
tested, which is of course very encouraging.

"We also looked for evidence of high levels of what are known as
"indicator organisms". These are bacteria which are found in soil and
water and in the faeces of animals, and because they are so common in
the environment, we would expect to find them at some level on products
like vegetables which are often grown close to the soil. We do not
generally see disease caused by organisms like these, but if we find
higher levels of these organisms then this can indicate poor hygiene in
production processes. The fact that we found permissible levels of these
organisms in 99.5% of the samples in this study also suggests high levels
of good practice.

"In the remaining 0.5% we found higher levels; this does not mean that
the produce would cause disease in humans, but it does underscore the
importance of maintaining the high levels of hygiene and production
quality which appear to have taken place in the other 99.5%"

The study was carried out in May and June 2000: it looked at vegetables
which were grown close to or in contact with the soil and which were sold
to be consumed without any further cooking or preparation other than
portioning or light washing/scraping (eg carrot, lettuce, spring onions).
3200 samples were taken from outlets across the UK which ranged from
supermarkets and health food stores to farm shops and market stalls.

The study was set up to provide a snapshot of the microbiological
quality of ready-to-eat organic vegetables; it was not set up to compare
organic vegetables with those grown by other methods. However, it is the
first study of its kind, and is being used to inform the development of
future studies in this area.

Date: Jun 15 2001 07:04:38 EDT
From: "Pete Lund"
Subject: enough food?

One of the more compelling reasons for supporting agbiotech in general and
GM in particular, and one which has been widely discussed in this list, is
the present and growing global food crisis. This was also a strong plank
of the arguments made in the reports from the Nuffield Council on
Bioethics, and by the World Bank, recommending R and D of GM crops for use
particularly in developing countries. In public discussions, I frequently
use this point to emphasise the need, as I perceive it, to support
research and development in all potential routes for improving
agricultural productivity, whether they are high tech (GM, marker assisted
breeding) or not (IPM, improved soil management etc), on the basis that
any investment in agriculture for the future needs to be spread to balance
risk and

In the light of this, the following letter in the UK publication "Farming
News" is of interest, and comments on it from members of this list who are
well informed in this area would be very welcome.

"SIR - The Behind the Headlines article "Genetic trial sites still have
ground for debate" (FN, June 7) needs a little updating.

Last year the UN produced a report on global food needs and production to
2030. It has reduced its global population forecast for this period to 8.1
billion. Meanwhile the 57 per cent projected increase in world crop
production to 2030 will exceed population growth.

Food consumption in developing countries is expected to rise from its 2626
kcal/person/day base in the 1990s to 3020 kcal in 2030. By 2030, crop
production in developing countries is projected to have increased by 70
per cent.

The UN report concludes: " ... for the world as a whole there is enough,
or more than enough, food production potential to meet the growth of
effective demand."

Significantly, in its calculations the UN specifically excludes any
contribution from developments in GM crops due to uncertainties regarding
agronomic performance, biosafety and consumer acceptance.

This positive prognosis from the UN incorporates a forecast annual
increase in world cereal yields of 0.8 per cent a year.

Last month Monsanto announced that it anticipates achieving increases in
wheat yields of at least two per cent a year by applying marker assisted
techniques to conventional breeding without the use of genetic
engineering. Similar developments are expected with other crops.

The 'we need to increase production' argument for GMOs is pretty much
dead in the water now, particularly as in practice they often produce
lower crop yields."

Does anyone have any general comments? Is this a reasonable argument
or is there something seriously amiss with the figures or their


Date: 15 Jun 2001 09:12:55 -0000
From: Beant Ahloowalia
Subject: Plant Genetic Resources
To: AgBioView

This makes a lot of sense. There is need to change TRIPS agreement under
WTO. The plant germplasm in all its forms- wild, cultivated, conserved,
mutated, modified or engineered- be freely available for producing
improved plant varieties by the furture generation of plant breeders.
Short term financial gains by patenting a few novel genes will spell a
long term disaster to the free flow of plant germplasm and ultimately to
plant science and seed technology, and to the food security of developing

B.S. Ahloowalia


255 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from 54 countries call on
negotiators to endorse an agreement that will keep open access for all to
the seeds of the world?s most important crops, unrestricted by patents and
intellectual property rights. Next week (23-28 April 2001) in Spoleto,
Italy, negotiations on the revised International
Undertaking at FAO will continue. The outcome of the 41 countries?
deliberations will decide the fate of billions of people who currently
depend on freely exchanged farmers? seeds. These seeds
provide the diversity of food for the world. Unless free access is
guaranteed the world?s ability to ensure food security will be profoundly

Failure to achieve agreement will lead to a rapid reduction in the
exchange of plant breeding stocks between countries and institutions and
amongst farmers themselves. Agricultural research and the
future of a half million seed samples of 30 food crops will also be
threatened. Farmers? Rights freely to save, exchange, and sell seeds will
be denied.The world?s seeds will increasingly fall into the hands of
multinational corporations who, protected by patents and intellectual
property rights, will decide what and whether people will eat. If
negotiations succeed the International Undertaking will be agreed by the
Conference of the FAO in November 2001 and will become legally binding.
CSOs and their networks are closely watching the outcome: increased public
attention is being brought to bear on these negotiations. CSOs have
insisted in their letter that the negotiators must not fail and have said
to them: "Time is running out but an agreement, supported by a majority of
countries, is within your grasp?Global food security and the livelihoods
of millions of rural households depend on your work in Spoleto: you must
not abdicate your responsibilities".

For further information from 23-28 April, Contact CSO observers at the
negotiations Henk Hobbelink and Pat Mooney at Hotel dei Duchi, Spoleto,
Italy Tel:+39 07
43 44 541; Fax:+39 07
43 44 543
Full text of the {HYPERLINK l "cso"}CSO letter and {HYPERLINK l
"signatories"}signatories and explanatory documents are available at:
UK Agricultural Biodiversity Coalition {HYPERLINK
"http://www.ukabc.org/"}www.ukabc.org; Berne Declaration {HYPERLINK

UNC, Penn State scientists find gene that controls water retention in

June 15, 2001

Contact: David Williamson

CHAPEL HILL - Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill, working with colleagues at Pennsylvania State University, have
identified a gene responsible for controlling water retention and cell
division in plants.

Their discoveries, announced in two papers appearing in the June 15 issue
of the journal Science, raise the possibility of making crop plants more
resistant to drought, a goal agronomists have pursued for decades.

"When I was born in 1957, there were 4 billion people on Earth, and if I
die a natural death sometime around 2030, there will be about 10 billion,"
said Dr. Alan M. Jones, professor of biology at UNC. "That's an enormous
increase in just one lifetime. If we are going to be able to feed all
these people, we're going to figure out ways of improving and increasing
the food supply by nontraditional means. We think this work is an
important step toward doing that because researchers should be able to
modify this gene to make crops hardier."

Besides Jones, UNC authors of the papers are biology graduate student
Hemayet Ullah, research associate Jin-Gui Chen and former UNC postdoctoral
fellow Kyung-Hoan Im. Penn State authors are postdoctoral fellow Xi-Qing
Wang and Dr. Sarah M. Assmann, professor of biology.

In Chapel Hill, Jones' team, as part of a new multidisciplinary genome
sciences initiative, created a mutation in a gene from a common laboratory
plant, Arabidopsis, that rendered the gene nonfunctional. Mutant plants
wilted more readily than normal plants because they were unable to retain
water as well.

The UNC scientists suspected that the gene they targeted encodes a
critically important molecule called a G protein that plays a central role
in regulating the various signals such as light and hormones that control
plant development. Their experiments showed they were right. But because
the mutant plants wilted, they thought the gene probably also controlled
water retention.

Since Assmann specialized in that area of biology, Jones sent seeds to her
and Wang, who analyzed the resulting plants. The Pennsylvania researchers
found that plants with the gene knocked out could not respond to the
natural hormone abscisic acid as well as normal plants do. That hormone
controls the size of openings in leaves known as stomatal pores.
Surrounding guard cells regulate the opening and closing of the pores.

Normally, when the soil becomes drier through lack of rainfall, guard
cells increase in size to close down the openings and reduce the amount of
water plants lose to the atmosphere, Jones said. "The pores serve as
conduits through which plants exchange the oxygen they produce with the
carbon dioxide they use for photosynthesis," he said. "Of course, this gas
exchange occurs at the cost of losing water so that plants regulate pore
openings carefully via internal signals like abscisic acid."

In other experiments published in Science, the UNC team showed that the G
protein controls cell division in the plant they studied. Modifications in
the gene responsible for G protein theoretically could affect crop plants
in useful ways beyond just water retention, Jones said.

"Plants use many signals, including light, nutrients and hormones, to
decide when their cells should divide, and these multiple signals utilize
this G protein," he said. "Animals use many different types of G proteins,
but plants have only this one, which must play a central role in how
various signals shape plant development and behavior."

In a Science commentary, Dr. Brian E. Ellis and graduate student Godfrey
P. Miles of the University of British Columbia said that further
systematic studies incapacitating genes in Arabidopsis and other plants,
combined with detailed analyses of the plants themselves, likely will
reveal molecular signaling networks specific to plants. "These will have
evolved to meet the unique challenges faced by that large part of the
biosphere that must deal with its daily environmental challenges without
running away," they wrote.

Drs. Jeff C. Young and Michael R. Sussman of Western Washington University
and the University of Wisconsin, respectively, also helped with the
investigation. The gene the researchers worked on, known as GPA1, had
already been sequenced, but its roles were unknown. Sussman directs a
facility at Wisconsin that maintains a library of uncatalogued plant
mutants that researchers can sort through.

MPs split on GM food labels

The Western Producer
By Barry Wilson
June 15, 2001

The clock is ticking down on a debate over the appropriate way to label
genetically modified foods. So far, Parliament is a House divided. Charles
Caccia, veteran Toronto Liberal MP and chair of the House of Commons
environment committee, has proposed that mandatory labeling be the law.

The proposal will receive three hours of parliamentary debate before being
put to a free vote in the autumn after MPs return from their summer

Last week featured the second hour of debate and while the government
already has decided voluntary labeling is the way to go, the debate has
shown divisions within almost all parties.

A House of Commons vote to send the mandatory labeling idea to a committee
for study would be an embarrassment for the government.

Alberta Alliance MP Rob Merrifield, a farmer as well as the party deputy
health critic, argued that Canadians have been eating GM foods for many
years without ill effects.

"The statistics show we are living longer and have more active and
healthier lives now than ever before," he said. "If our food sources were
to become polluted or dangerous, the opposite of that would be true."

His conclusion is that there is no scientific or health justification for
labeling solely on the basis of genetic modification.

James Lunney, a Vancouver Island Alliance MP, has reached a different
conclusion. He said there is no proof yet that GM foods are safe.

"We need better science around these products to assure Canadians that
they are safe," he said. "We also need to consider what options are
available, including the labeling issue, in order to satisfy Canadians
until the scientific principle is better satisfied to reduce the risk of
these products."

New Democrats and Bloc Québecois MPs have been unanimous in supporting
mandatory labeling. But the Liberals have shown some divisions.

Southern Ontario MP Jerry Pickard, representing a large agricultural
riding, said June 6 there is confusion about such basic issues as how to
define genetic modification. He said politicians should not "rush into"

labeling decisions while various studies of the issue are under way.

"More detail is needed if labeling is going to be accurate and useful to
consumers," Pickard argued.

Senior Quebec Liberal MP and former Quebec environment minister Clifford
Alexander insisted there is no need for more delay.

Caution and consumer rights demand labeling, he told the Commons. At
present, educated consumers uneasy about the long-term implications of
genetic modification have no way of determining what they are eating.